12 Candles


Originally posted on 09 July 2010 :

Thomas is right. Photography was frightfully expensive when we were at the NDA. When I sent out a few pictures last week, there was a request from Nirmal Mahajan asking me to scan the whole album and put it on the net. I think, I will do that, but bit by bit.

There are no more than about 100 pictures in my collection. But each one has a story attached to it. Here is one taken just before the Diwali of 1960. And what it says to me is as follows:

There was some kind of an exhibition in the stadium and every squadron was asked to put up a stall in it. We did not give much attention to it until the D-day, and when we were chased by our Squadron Commander, Maj Khader Ahmed, we quickly thought of a simple game. On a table we placed 12 candles and asked our guests to light them with a single match stick. One had to pay 25 paise for each attempt and the prize money was Rs two, if the person succeeded in doing so. KD Singh of our Squadron, was the Academy Cadet Captain and he was given the most enviable duty of escorting the niece of our Commandant, Rear Admiral BA Samson. We asked him to bring her over to our stall. And that attracted every one to our tent. We gave a demonstration, lighting all candles, and this young lady made at least a dozen attempts, without success! In fact, she nearly burnt her finger in the process. As far as I remember only a few guests (mostly housewives) succeeded in getting the prize money out of us. Thomas may remember the exact amount but I think we ended up with a tidy sum of money by the end of the day.

I must now tell you how WE managed to light all those 12 candles with one stick. In our match box, we had coated the matchsticks with a little wax, and so it lasted longer. And since we had practiced a bit, we had little difficulty in performing the trick.

I think Thomas and KD may recall some more details of the event. As I see these pictures, I say :

“Bhulaaye nahiN bhool sakta hai koi

Voh Sudan block aur us lake ka pani

Next time I will you about a storm which blew away a window on the flank of the top floor along with its frame and gave us a view of our squadron which no one had ever seen before . It may well be a sight which no one has ever seen since the event.

For the sake of continuity, I give below a link to a lilting melody sung by Jagjit, which leads to the same sort of nostalgia, which has the lines, “Voh kagaz ki kishti voh baarish ka paani” 



  1. Bajaj says:

    Yes, I know Puthetu Zacarias Mani very well. 17 NDA.

    I liked him and he reciprocated in good measure.

    And yes it is Jaichandran not Balachandran.

    It is always good to reminisce once in a while. It rechargesyour memory cells

    and brings a smile on our faces. Something of rarity these days.

    Bulla ki jana main kaun!!

  2. jagjeet singh says:

    This is interesting ,it would be interesting to see the

  3. Dev says:

    I will be on my way back home shortly after attending weddings and visiting northern California on business and will respond in more detail! In the meantime I am noticing a spurt of internet activity on you folks part – GREAT indeed! This is a great picture that instantly brings back all the great memories of our glorious NDA days !!

  4. J Thomas says:

    Thanks. This is the first time I’m seeing this pic. I do remember the Diwali mela. My recollection is that Maj Khader Ahmed gave us the idea for the 12 candles. Not a single smoker could light all the candles. They would light the match and point the head down, so as to get a good flame. But that burnt up the match fast.

    I don’t think we waxed the matches beforehand. But there were two tricks. On a 2nd attempt, the wicks would be warm and easier to light. Also, an attempt would be made to touch the wick and rub off some hot wax. But the most important point was to keep the match pointing upwards, thereby minimising the burn.

  5. Pawanbir Singh says:

    Good one Uncle. Who says….mischief is not a thing of past!!

  6. Amarjit Singh Behl says:

    Dear 2997,

    You have excellent mamory. It is good to have not so good a memory & you automatically start forgetting things.



  7. Bajaj says:

    I recognize you and KD.

    One seen partly was in Kohima. Balachandran??

    Who are the others??

    • Joseph Thomas says:

      (L to R) Kanwal Dev Singh, Young Lady (Comdt’s niece), Jaichandran, J Thomas, Surjit Singh, SK Aneja, all of H Sqn, XIX Course.

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